Board approves changing Baltimore Arena's name to Royal Farms Arena

Baltimore's spending panel voted unanimously Wednesday to change the Baltimore Arena's name to the Royal Farms Arena in exchange for about $1.2 million over five years.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Baltimore-based convenience store chain — which is perhaps best known for its Western fries and fried chicken — would pay $250,000 annually to the city annually for five years.

The deal would roughly triple the amount received by the city for the title sponsorship when it was known as 1st Mariner Arena. That agreement, approved in 2002, netted the city $75,000 a year before it expired at the end of 2012. The measure passed the Board of Estimates by a 4-0 vote, with Comptroller Joan Pratt abstaining.

"I felt very strongly that we could do better than the deal we had," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. "I'm pleased that Royal Farms has stepped up. The naming rights for the arena, which is one of the best performing arenas in the country despite its condition, is a good sign."

Rawlings-Blake called constructing a "new or renovated" arena — as many business leaders have called for — a "priority."

"It has to be the right location with the right financing," she said.

Having its company name on the arena will help lift the profile of Hampden-based Royal Farms, according to Frank Schilling, the chain's director of marketing and merchandising. Founded in 1959, the chain employs about 4,000 people and has about 160 stores in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The deal does not include the rights to sell food at the arena, which are negotiated under a separate contract, but the businesses will look at other ways to cross-promote, officials said.

The arena is home to the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team and is host for numerous events throughout the year, including Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, basketball tournaments and concerts.

Frank Remesch, general manager of the arena, said he was excited about the opportunity to promote shows to Royal Farms customers.

"Royal Farms is going to be a really good partner," he said. "They're going to help me sell tickets."

Signs with the arena's new name will begin to go up over the next two months, officials said.

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